“Mental health is not a dichotomy, but there is something in between. The absence of mental illness does not lead to mental health. There is a purgatory in the middle.”
—Dr. Martin Seligman
Languishing has recently become a household word, thanks to a New York Times article on the mental health impact of COVID. A term coined by Dr. Corey Keyes, languishing is the state of neither thriving nor suffering from an active mental disorder—it is an area of in-between. If you imagine a mental health continuum in which -10 represents mental illness and +10 represents flourishing, then languishing would rate around zero.
Languishing can also be described of living in the gray rather than in vivid color. People often describe feeling a sense of “blah” or “fogginess.” Languishing is particularly prevalent in the corporate world. In a survey by BetterUp, 55 percent of employees reported feelings of languishing, versus 35 percent thriving and 5 percent each on the two extreme ends of the curve.
Does the concept of languishing resonate with you? If so, Wholebeing Institute’s SPIRE model of well-being can help you move closer to flourishing. Try one of the following SPIRE interventions to move yourself away from languishing and 5 percent closer to creating your own InSPIREd summer.
Be mindful—pay attention on purpose to your environment. This morning, I awoke to the most beautiful full moon. We can become more mindful of these moments of awe—the full moon, the joy on your child’s face as she runs through a sprinkler, the clouds rolling by in a blue sky. As we apply mindfulness throughout the day, we are able to dial down our inner critic. When we are attending to the details in life, we are better able to calm the worrying mind.
The foundation of good health starts with real, whole foods. Eat foods that are unprocessed, seasonal, and organic when possible. As Michael Pollen advises, eat foods that are plants, not foods that are processed in a plant. What does this mean? Choose healthy proteins, colorful fruits and vegetables, beans and legumes, nuts and seeds. Take inventory today and think about how much of your intake is real food versus processed, and then make a plan to increase your whole food intake by 5 percent tomorrow!
Keep learning and growing. The character strength of Curiosity is highly connected with greater well-being. Are you pursuing a topic or activity that is joyful and interesting to you right now? Indeed, in simply pursuing a goal, according to researcher Sonya Lyubomirsky, we become happier along the way. Whether you are interested in the Industrial Revolution, mountain biking, book club discussions, or growing native plants, invest in your interests! Talk with others, join groups, read books, watch documentaries, or take online or in-person classes.
Invest in meaningful human connections. In a study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, Elisha Goldstein posits that connection is the center of well-being, although it is often overlooked. When we feel connected, we feel safe and secure, as if we have a supportive net beneath us. How do we support better connections? Invest in micro-moments of connection, suggests researcher Barbara Fredrickson. Smile at the check-out person, engage in a brief conversation with the person sitting to your left as you wait at the hair salon, text your friend just to say hi, or listen deeply to your partner.
Raise positive emotions through practicing kindness. When we are kind to others, we’re strengthening those all-important relational connections. Studies show that when we are kind and generous to others, we are also happier. In one study, college students were given $20. One group was told to spend it on themselves, and another group was asked to spend the money on someone else. Those who gifted a stranger reported immediate happiness and increased levels of happiness weeks later. Be aware of how you are giving right now. Are you gifting someone with something as simple as a smile, or giving to a charity you support, or leading a group? Think of the ways in which you are giving back, appreciate yourself for those ways, and explore new opportunities for giving. We are all interconnected, and when you elevate others, you are also lifted.
Sandy Campbell, a 2018 CiWPP graduate, is a Health and Wellness Coach, and holds an MS in Counseling from Villanova University, a degree from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition, and a 200-hour yoga teacher training certification. After working for 10-plus years for a major pharmaceutical company, Sandy decided to step out of the corporate world and focus on improving her health, quality of life, and happiness. Her passion evolved into helping others meet their full potential through small but highly impactful dietary and lifestyle shifts. Focusing on nutrition, stress management, and positive psychology, Sandy works with clients in person and remotely; leads corporate wellness workshops for businesses and organizations, including the Federal Home Loan Bank of Pittsburgh, Mylan Pharmaceuticals, and the Community College of Allegheny County; and leads on-site and online programs, including her 11-Day Pure Energy Program, a clean eating boot camp. Learn more at sandycampbell.net or on Facebook at Sandy Campbell Wellness.